Industry insight: Q&A with Head of Transport
SAGE Automation, Published: November 18, 2022 - Updated: November 18, 2022 (10 min read)
The transport industry has been awash with talk of next-generation technologies that are making their way into major transport projects. These solutions provide an answer to some of the industry’s greatest challenges such as congestion management, safer transport systems, and sustainability goals.
We can think of a handful of exciting SAGE initiatives that meet these criteria. From the solar-powered advanced warning systems being installed for rail and road blackspot intersections, to the Advanced Vehicle Detection Systems (AVDS) using LiDAR, these technologies are changing our roads for the better.
With this in mind, we asked our very own Head of Transport, Paul Markwick, for a Transport industry update and look to the future. Paul has a 16-year history of working with clients in the transport and civil sector as the General Manager for Victoria & Tasmania, and more recently in a national role as Head of Transport at SAGE.
We asked Paul about the sector’s major challenges and opportunities in seven questions:
1. What’s the Transport industry’s biggest challenge right now?
Paul: Currently the entire transport industry is running at, or near capacity with major construction projects underway and a strong pipeline of opportunities. I was talking to one of the tier-one civil companies and they have a pipeline of tenders fully scheduled for the next two years. Of note, a nationwide Civil Contractors Federation National (CCF) survey found that skills shortages were one of the highest-ranked threats to delivering infrastructure projects. We at SAGE are carefully assessing the projects that we participate in the tender process to ensure we have the right people and capacity to deliver.
It’s also interesting to see that Alliance-style contracts are back in favour as a contract model in order to attract greater industry participation.
2. What is the appetite for new technologies in major transport projects?
Unique FAT: signage underwent a stringent testing process to enable faster rollout within the tunnel. A significant amount of pre-testing and controller installation was completed without the need for lane or tunnel closures.
Paul: Road authorities and major civil companies are interested in discovering how new technologies can be used to provide greater insights into traffic movements, and/or reduce project delivery costs. On major projects where we partner exclusively at the time of tender, we are able to provide savings to the overall project through the introduction of project innovations. For example, our innovative testing methods can drastically reduce time taken for commissioning, leading to savings for the project, as with the Monash Freeway Upgrade where we carried out configuration and FAT of all roadside assets prior to field installation. This significantly reduced the on-site effort and shifted the workload earlier in the project further reducing risk to the timeframe.
We’ve continued to use this technique in other projects, such as with the Burnley and Domain Tunnels project in Melbourne, which means we can pass on the certainty of project delivery time with minimal disruption to road users. Read more: Lane Use Management System delivered for critical tunnels
3. Can you provide an example of a new technology being deployed for a recent transport project?
Unique LiDAR technology deployment is providing real-time traffic flow for a major intersection.
Paul: SAGE Automation is currently involved in a project for the design, installation, and maintenance for a new Advanced Vehicle Detection System (AVDS) on a freeway off-ramp and an arterial intersection. SAGE identified that advanced LiDAR technology would achieve the tender requirements. We designed and configured the overarching system that deploys nine LiDARs and SAGE Edge IoT devices, nine CCTV traffic cameras for monitoring, and a new AVDS central data processing software.
This LiDAR technology combination shows continuous vehicle movement at the intersection, which hasn’t really been done before. LiDAR is like a radar and allows real-time traffic flow information to be shown to road authorities' traffic operation centres. It detects all forms of transport, including pedestrians, cyclists, buses, cars and any vehicle, and feeds into live traffic incident management and road improvement planning. planning.
There are many other trials happening now with new technologies, including the use of Artificial Intelligence on the existing CCTV network and some cool projects using our Addinsight solution and SAGE Edge devices.
4. How does SAGE differ from competitors in the industry? What outcomes does this deliver to clients?
Paul: It’s good to be different from your competitors and SAGE does look like a different company. Because we are active in many sectors, not just Transport, we are able to bring in different learnings from these sectors that are relevant. This takes our service to a higher level.
We continually invest in our systems and processes to make project delivery more efficient, which gives us a competitive advantage. For example, we have developed an automated testing script for signs that capture every image and test record, automatically saving these onto the project workspace, and packaging them up as part of the documentation set for project handover.
We have also invested in documenting our delivery approach and our design approach, which will be important to us as we grow our business nationally. The way we design, test, verify, functional test and hand over the full suite of documentation, I believe sets us apart from our competitors. We feel this can save time on the project and save the total project costs to deliver.
When you’ve delivered a major project together, that's when trust happens. It comes over years of working together and delivering on your promises. It’s when you can call someone and say “I need this”, and know that person will deliver. — Paul Markwick, Head of Transport, SAGE Group
5. How are new technologies and smart cities concepts influencing the transport sector?
Smart cities concepts are becoming more ingrained in transport planning.
Paul: There are a few exciting areas. Smart cities concepts such as digitally connecting public spaces and improving accessibility and mobility are becoming more ingrained in transport planning, particularly when it comes to public transport services. It is all about better connecting people with infrastructure and transport networks to improve safety and services. In one example, we developed a dynamic school zone sign that responds based on vehicle speed, pedestrian presence and time of day, resulting in safer, smarter school zones.
The use of SAGE Edge and IoT devices, in general, are becoming prolific in transport (and all industries really) as we are looking to take advantage of Edge computing generally. The information and analytics we are able to gather and use will change the way we think about maintenance. We are gaining insight before events happen rather than waiting for the public to report a fault or an incident. Finally, every IoT device improves the data available for Addinsight to collect and analyse movement, providing changes across the network as they happen.
For Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), I believe AVs will be upon us sooner than we think. They are tipped to play an important function in the ‘first-mile, last-mile challenge’, with multiple industry trials and investments occurring within Australia, and worldwide.
Integrating technology into existing infrastructure will play a critical role to AV’s success. — Paul Markwick, Head of Transport, SAGE Group
SAGE has been involved in multiple trials, and is currently providing remote monitoring capability to stage two of the Flinders Express (FLEX) driverless shuttle trial. Read more: FLEX driverless shuttle stage 2 to be supported by SAGE’s National Operations Centre
6. What is next for Transport at SAGE?
SAGE delivered Victoria's longest-managed motorway project on the Monash Freeway.
Paul: We are growing nationally. We’re expanding the now 50-strong team across all capital cities and building specialist teams to suit each project. It’s exciting to see our growth in response to our success. We had to build a new team for the Monash Freeway project and looking at the number of people we had then versus now; we did exceptional things!
My main objective as Head of Transport is to build systems that will ensure more value is transferred and shared with our customers, be they civil contractors, road authorities or toll road operators. We have created such strong business systems and processes on different projects, and I look to ensure these are transferred across to other projects, to reduce risk and deliver exceptional outcomes for clients, across the board. For example, the way SAGE manages its subcontractors; the way it proactively looks ahead to spot problems and find solutions before they happen; its advanced documentation, test and delivery systems, design process, integrated cabinet manufacture, and end-to-end capability.
“Through more efficient delivery we reduce the risk and increase our value to the customer. " — Paul Markwick, Head of Transport, SAGE Group
7. What is the most important part of working with customers?
Paul Markwick at the ITS Australia Summit, Brisbane 2022.
Paul: I'd say the most important, and rewarding, part of working with clients is the relationships we make with individuals. For any successful project, you need to have strong relationships at all levels; from the person that books the traffic control, to the design team, to the Project Director.
When you’ve delivered a major project together, that's when trust happens. It comes over years of working together and delivering on your commitments. It’s when you can call someone and say “I need this”, and know that person will deliver for you.
That’s how you know you’ve done a good job because you’ve got a network of people who know they can count on you to ‘do what you say you’re going to do’. It all comes back to this, and it’s what sets us apart – SAGE’s culture is very much about being genuine and delivering exceptional outcomes for our customers and each other.